I suppose that in any close political campaign, a candidate's arrest even from more than 30 years ago — from a fight in his freshman year in college — is going to become an issue. In VA-11, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has sent out mailers that cite a 1976 incident involving Keith Fimian, the Republican challenger to Rep. Gerry Connolly, D. (Naturally, there's no mention that it happened during the Ford administration.)
But this might not be a very prudent attack in this particular instance, because voters in the district are likely to remember Connolly's much more recent run-in with the law. In 2004, he veered with his Toyota Camry into the wrong lane and crashed into a married couple's Ford Explorer. They testified that the collision was very loud, although the damage was slight. Connolly, then serving as chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, looked straight at the occupants of the Explorer, they testified, and drove away to a meeting, even as they honked to try to get him to stop.
Although it happened in broad daylight, Connolly later testified that he had no idea he had hit anyone. He claimed that he didn't even notice the dent on the driver's side of his own car until the following day, by which time, according to his own account of what he did that later day, he would have gotten into and out of the vehicle at least three times.
Connolly was acquitted in a bench trial of misdemeanor hit-and-run. Here is what the Washington Post reported on the judge's curious comments:
Judge Craig Johnston, ruling after a two-hour trial in General District Court with seven witnesses, acknowledged that Connolly's failure to realize that his red Toyota Camry had collided with a black Ford Explorer on International Drive the morning of May 14 “is perhaps subject to some incredulity on the part of many.” He said “there was certainly good reason” for Fairfax police to charge Connolly. But Johnston said the prosecutor did not prove that the county's top political leader purposefully drove away to a meeting after the accident…
Johnston, in issuing his not guilty ruling, said Connolly's “position and his duties have caused him to be oblivious to what is going on in his car.”
Next Tuesday, Northern Virginia voters will have a chance to make Gerry Connolly a better driver.